Tuesday, 29 April 2014


And so it’s that time again – Panini sticker album time! With the World Cup fast approaching, of course I had to release my inner-child and my dad bought me the album, with 50 packs of stickers, no less. I’ll try and keep this updated as much as possible.
Use the comment box below to let me know what you need, or tweet me @Luuuce_x

Sunday, 20 April 2014

My trip to Camp Nou (2)

Arriving in Barcelona on Saturday lunchtime, I had just enough time to find my way to the hotel, check-in, dump my bags, have some lunch and jump on the metro to the Nou Camp. I was off to see Barcelona’s La Liga encounter with Real Betis. I love the Spanish metro system – it’s so much cleaner and easier to navigate than the London underground; it’s nowhere near as cramped either, even in peak times and the people seem a lot less intimidating. After getting off at Badal, which ended up being a last minute decision, after seeing a number of fans getting off, it was a five minute walk to the ground.
On arrival, the sheer magnitude of the place was astounding, and while from the outside, it didn’t look the most attractive of structures, once inside I was in awe. Luckily the gate I wanted was at the front of the stadium – I can’t begin to imagine the walk, if you were sitting in the north end. Sitting in ‘Gol Sud’ (the south end behind the goal – and the end with the Nike swoosh in the seats) and on the second tier, the view was incredible. Although I was miles away from the pitch, it didn’t feel as far away and the panoramas were great. On reflection, I had a good seat and would have rather sat behind the goal, than round the sides.
I loved how the away fans weren’t segregated and despite this, there was no trouble at all – although there were a group of 30 or so ‘die hards’ who were positioned in the top tier, sectioned off by mesh. They weren’t doing any harm though, just jumping around for 90 minutes and waving flags erratically.
On the whole, I wasn’t that impressed with Barcelona and it’s clear the team are a shadow of their former selves. While they dominated possession, playing  their typical passing game, so many of the passes were misplaced or mistimed, while they insisted on trying to walk it into the net – had more shots gone in from distance, I’m sure the margin of victory would have been greater. Busquets was the stand-out player for me, while Neymar who in my opinion is overrated, also played well. Most of all I was just pleased to see Messi live and he didn’t disappoint – even if his penalty miss wasn’t great,

I’m not sure what I was expecting atmosphere-wise, but from where I was sitting, it wasn’t that great. With over 80,000 in the stadium, there was a lot of impatience and it was fairly quiet with all the noise coming from the opposite end. At the point where it was 1-0, a number of Mexican waves took place to my right – summing up how dull the game was.
When you’re used to paying £20 for a ticket, close to £70 is very steep but I had a good evening and it was amazing to see world-class players in action.
Saturday 5th April 2014
Barcelona 3 – 1 Real Betis
Messi ’14
Figueras (og) ’67 
                           Martin ’69
Messi ’86

Thursday, 17 April 2014

My trip to Camp Nou

Having gone to the game against Real Betis on the Saturday evening and done the tour of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid last June, while in Barcelona, I just had to have a look around the Camp Nou. While walking round, I couldn’t help but make comparisons with their rival’s ground – and on reflection, I preferred the museum at the Nou Camp but the stadium tour didn’t live up to my expectations.
In fact, the museums were very similar – from the overall layout: glass cabinets full of trophies, memorabilia and other items to view to the interactive sections. The difference with Barça’s was that there was no mention of them being the best, something I found to be prominent with Real. There was a lot to see and I’d recommend a good hour – 90 minutes to enjoy walking around at your leisure. The little room dedicated to all the charity work the club does was also a nice touch.
There were a lot of displays dedicated to Lionel Messi – with the boots he wore when scoring goal 234 to break the record set by César Rodríguez, an illuminated screen when we won the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or (with Iniesta and Xavi, second and third, respectively) and the three Golden Boot titles he won (two in successive seasons). Not surprisingly, the queues for these achievements were fairly lengthy, although I eventually pushed my way to the front, so we could move on.

As expected, there were displays dedicated to other sports and the 12 titles display was dedicated to all the trophies won in various sports – it was interesting seeing the variation in shape and design. Above all, it was good to see recognition of other teams and not just the success of the football team over the years.
I enjoyed the stadium tour as well, but I was a bit disappointed at the lack of access we had. Having sat in both dugouts at the Bernabéu and Old Trafford, as well as visiting the home dressing rooms and sitting in the press conference rooms, it was a shame there wasn’t as much to see.
A lot of walking was involved, particularly up and downstairs and at the Bernabéu there were lifts between the floors. It was a really hot day and by the end of it, I just wanted to sit down with a granizado. It was strange seeing the stadium so empty, especially as there 80,000 at the game only 40 hours ago. Being on ground level and so close to the pitch was incredible, particularly given how far back I sat at the match. Although walking down the tunnel was my favourite – the walls either side were covered in a frieze of current squad players while El Cant del Barça blared out from the speakers (I’ve never known an anthem so catchy!).
Sitting in the press box in one of the stands was a bit of a squeeze and I can’t begin to imagine how they manage to all fit with laptops and the like. One of the actual boxes was also open, but at the time I walked by, it was full, with people waiting outside to experience what it’s like. Back down a level was the dressing room and then the press conference area. Neither really impressed me – the away dressing room was so empty and lifeless, with no sign of any facilities. I was expecting towels and treatment tables, but the only thing worth seeing was the screens around the room, depicting opposing players that had graced the area. The room for the press conferences was solely dedicated to a photo opportunity with one of the trophies – the rows of seats were cordoned off and you couldn’t even sit in the manager’s seat.
After making my way to exit, it was time for a quick walk round the club shop, which was on three floors. The vibrancy of the red, blue and yellow was a bit overwhelming after a while – at this point it was time for tapas!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Away days: Cambridge

My first League game of the season and my first away game since that incredible day in Burton back in May 2012 (if you discount Hayes & Yeading in the FA Trophy earlier this season). As soon as the fixtures came out, I wanted to go to Cambridge and as away days go, it didn’t disappoint.
8:30 am – due to my routine at work, I never lay-in anymore so I was up and at ‘em straight away, despite Cambridge only being under 2 hours away. I’d planned what I was wearing the night before anyway, so it was a case of hair and makeup, followed by a quick breakfast (coffee and a cake)
10:30 am – my mum dropped me off at Shenfield station and I set off on the 10:45 to London Liverpool Street. From there, I got the 11:28 to Cambridge and on arrival just before 1pm, I met up with a friend who had stayed over on Friday night
1:15 pm – we went to the Cambridge Blue, a pub where a few others had already met. With it being a gorgeous day, we sat outside in the beer garden. The pub was really lovely, but expensive - £9 for a Malibu & coke and a beer. There was only one member of staff working and when I saw the queues at the bar, we decided to leave and go elsewhere
1:50 pm – The Avery was the next stop, where other friends had been for a couple of hours. This after the worst taxi ride ever; the driver didn’t know where he was going so eventually we got out and walked! We found the pub eventually, thanks to Google Maps and stayed for a couple of drinks
2:35 pm – three taxi loads of us headed to the ground, which seemed miles away in relation to where we were. I managed to get in for a tenner – concession rate – thanks to my UH card (I’ll still be using that when I’m 30!). I took my place in the back of the stand, in the middle, with everyone else, where we had a very good view of the action
I didn’t really have any expectation before arriving at the Abbey but I can’t say I was all that impressed. While I can have no complaints about the view and the fact an atmosphere could be created easily, it was just a bit tinpot. Although it’s not too far from London, I was impressed over 600 of us made the journey and it was great seeing some old faces and catching up with friends from seasons gone by
I couldn’t pinpoint anyone having a bad game, although the penalty we conceded was needless. It was the first time I’d seen a couple of players in action and on the whole, I was impressed with the way we passed it around. Dymond took his goal well and despite stick from some members of the crowd, didn’t play too badly at all. Jupp pulled off a number of quality saves to keep us in it and Weston played well (Mr Consistency!) – I think a point apiece was probably fair, although we shaded it in stages
5:00 pm – after the game, everyone headed back to the town centre as they were all staying over. I was the only one in the group to be returning home so I was glad to see a couple of friends at the bus stop on the way – luckily they were going to the station too, and on my train. After stopping for a drink on the way, it was time to go home
6:40 pm – finally on the train, we headed to Liverpool Street, with the others leaving en route. The journey back seemed so much longer than on the way there and I was glad to be home. I got picked up at 9 from the station, got a Thai takeaway and ended up falling asleep in front of Match of the Day! I’m definitely getting old!